Seeds from produce

The granddaughter of Master Gardener Lloyd Thompson has been growing plants from seeds that come out of store-bought produce.

The year By Lloyd Thompson

2020 was a long year by any standard — even longer if you were a student suddenly thrust into online learning. My granddaughters and I ended up in school together, at our kitchen table.

Teachers were suddenly teaching in a format no one wanted or understood; kids were struggling with trying to learn without the engagement they needed. As a former agriculture and science teacher, I was lost in how to help my granddaughters.

One day, we were having a conversation during lunch and my 12-year-old granddaughter found a seed in a lemon she was cutting up for her “lemon” water. She asked some questions about seeds and how they grow and I started talking about planting flowers and vegetables in the school greenhouse. About then, I got the “look,” which from a middle schooler meant she only wanted to know if you could grow a lemon tree from a seed. With her natural curiosity engaged, we started researching it on the internet, and she ended up focusing on seed viability and seed germination.

After doing some research, we decided to expand our project and got more lemons. We went with a range of different types and sizes of lemons. We ordered two of every type of lemon and drank a lot of lemon water while looking for seeds, and felt like we hit the lottery every time we found some seeds.

I ended up as the lab assistant in our experiment, while my granddaughter was chief researcher. She pored over YouTube videos and countless articles about growing lemons. She decided to soak the seeds and see which ones sank after 24 hours, discarding the ones that floated. Then we rolled them up in a wet paper towel and placed them in a Ziploc bag to check seed viability.

A few days later, I heard an excited squeal as she saw the first radicle emerging from a now plump-looking lemon seed. She decided that she would plant them in a fine-blend soil mix when the radicle was 3 mm long. Soon we had a crop of lemon shoots poking up from the soil and she was busy looking at the produce advertisements and noticed that lemons have a citrus cousin called a grapefruit. We ended up adding a few grapefruits on that week’s grocery list.

While she was refining her process on germination with grapefruits, the lemons were busy growing under a propagation dome and on a heating mat. The grapefruit germination was much smoother and more successful as her growing skills improved.

Next, she was busy researching growing limes from seeds. The grapefruit soon moved under the propagation dome along with the lemons while she was busy preparing lime seeds to germinate.

We ran out of citrus at Fred Meyer, and I was sure we would move onto growing something more traditional. I have never considered papayas as traditional, but I found myself busy helping her clean and prepare the seeds for germination; and of course, planting after they germinated. It seemed like everything she touched grew and it inspired her to try more things. Soon we had mangoes, avocados and apples growing.

I learned as much as she did during our adventures in the produce department looking for seeds. She worked on her scientific procedure and learned how to grow plants from seeds. We both learned that one of the joys of learning is doing things you’ve never done before. So if you find a seed in your lemon or any seed in your produce, maybe you should have a little fun and see if you can get it to grow!

A WSU Master Gardeners of Chelan County column appears weekly in The Wenatchee World. Lloyd Thompson is one of four columnists featured. Learn more, visit or call 667-6540.